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On earth as it is in heaven

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Gospel Commentary Aug. 2, Mt 14:13-21 


Pay attention to Jesus’ eyes in this Sunday’s Gospel. What does he see? Where does he look?


The first thing he catches sight of is the large crowd that came to follow him when they heard he withdrew in a boat to go to a deserted place: “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.” Seeing the crowd does something to Jesus. He sees their need, and his insides are turned over. He is moved with pity for them. From this compassion comes these acts of curing their sick and feeding them miraculously with loaves and fish.


If we continue to follow Our Lord’s eyes, we notice the second place he directs them. Before performing the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, he looks up to heaven: “Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.” With such little food in his venerable hands and such a large crowd to feed, Jesus looks up to his Father in heaven.


Look how closely this parallels what Jesus does at the Last Supper and at every Mass. Here are the words the priest says in the first eucharistic prayer at Mass: “On the day before he was to suffer, he took bread in his holy and venerable hands, and with eyes raised to heaven to you, O God, his almighty Father, giving you thanks, he said the blessing, broke the bread, and gave it to his disciples … ” That Jesus raises his eyes to the Father is significant.


These are the two places Jesus looks: earth and heaven, the crowd in need and his Father from whom all good things come. Jesus can only give because he is the Son, the one who always sees the Father. “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise” (Jn 5:19).


“All that is mine is yours,” said the prodigal son’s father to his envious older son, who was upset that his father never slaughtered a fattened calf for him (Lk 15:31). This was a lesson for the older son who didn’t realize what he had all along. But this truth was always known by the eternal Son. It didn’t matter that all they had were five loaves and two fish. All that the Father has Jesus has, and so Jesus could provide for the needs of this crowd. In this case, it meant the miraculous multiplication of those loaves and fish. Precisely because he is the Son of the Father, there is no need he cannot provide for.


“There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” It also is significant that Jesus works this miracle through his disciples. Rather than offering the food directly to the crowd, Jesus gave the loaves and fish to the disciples, who in turn supplied them to the crowd. Jesus shares his power to give, which flows from his divine sonship, with the disciples by first giving them a share in that sonship. Then they find that they can give as he does. As long as they are associated with him, all that is his to give is theirs to give.


Jesus makes us adopted sons and daughters of the Father. What he has by nature, he gives to us by grace. By this grace of adoption, all that is the Father’s is ours as well.


Because of this, our eyes can be directed in these same two places: earth and heaven, those in need here and our Father who can provide for and satisfy all need. With those in need, we can share from what we have received from our Father. This involves material goods, of course. We can also share with them warmth and friendship, both of which are deep human needs not to be neglected. We can share with them clarity and peace beyond what this world can give. And most importantly of all, we can bring them to Christ, who makes us sons and daughters of the Father.


Fr. Oetjen is parochial vicar of St. James Church in Falls Church. 

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2020